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Research Article

The Effect of Solvents, Acetone,Water, and

Ethanol, on the Morphological and Optical
Properties of ZnO Nanoparticles Prepared
HDA-capped ZnO nanoparticles were prepared by solvothermal method using solvents of diferent
polarities. A number of
parameters were kept constant such as temperature, pressure, time, and pH while solvents were
varied, that is, water, ethanol,
and acetone. The TEM was used for the structural properties and morphologies such as spheres,
mixture of rods, and spheres and
stars were obtained in ethanol, acetone, and water, respectively, in a given reaction time of 15
minutes. Both ethanol and acetone
gave rods with high aspect ratio primarily because of the lengths of the rods. Water and ethanol
have the hydroxyl groups which
interact with nanoparticles from nucleation, growth, and termination giving rise to nonspherical
shapes. The hydroxyl group
promotes growth in a nonuniform way resulting in stars and rods. The optical features were typical
of ZnO nanoparticles with
excitonic peaks in the range 368 to 374nm from their absorption spectra. The XRD patterns of the
particles gave the most stable
form of ZnO which is the hexagonal phase, with high degree of crystallinity and with the 101 plane
predominant in all solvents.
1. Introduction
Semiconductors in a nanoscale level have attracted a great
deal of intrest due to their unique properties [1]. One of
the unique characteristic of the nanoparticles is their size
dependent electrical and optical properties known as the
quantum confinement efect [2, 3]. ZnO is one of the few
semiconductors which exhibit quantum confinement efect.
ZnO is a wide band gap (3.34 eV) material and it has found
applications in various fields [4]. It is an environmental
friendly oxide, because of its nontoxicity and the ability to
absorb in the UV range. It is as such used as a UV absorbent
in the sunscreens and in solar energy conversion [5].
Other applications of ZnO include photovoltaic devices,
gas sensors, photocatalysis, transparent conducting coating,
and electrostatic transducers, [4]. It is well documented
that the shape and size of the material strongly afect the
properties and the applications of the material [69]. Hence,
much efort is being dedicated on controlling the size and
shape of the particles; however this still remains a challenge
in synthetic chemists in the nanoscience field. Diferent
factors such as time, temperature, concentration, precursors,
capping molecule, solvents, and others are reported to afect
the shape and size of the nanoparticles [7, 8].
ZnO is an interesting metal oxide because it can exist
in diverse convoluted morphologies [10, 11]. Herein we
report on the efect of solvent efect on the shape of ZnO
nanoparticles. Solvents play a crucial role in a reaction; they
provide a means of temperature control by determining
the highest temperature at which the reaction will occur.
ZnO has been prepared by diferent methods. A novel solgel
technique for the synthesis of stable zinc oxide colloids
composed of nano-sized wurzite crystal was reported by
Bahnemann et al. [12] and Spanhel and Anderson [13].
Other methods for the preparation of the metal oxide semiconductor
nanoparticles reported to date include double-jet
precipitation [14], flow through supercritical water method
(FT-SCW) [15], and reverse micelles [16]. A nonhydrolytic
single source precursor for the synthesis of the diferent
metal oxide was reported by Rochengerger et al. [17] where
a metal cupferron complex acts as a single source precursor
for the various metal oxides. In a solvothermal synthesis, a
solvent acts as a reaction medium that allows the relatively
high temperature required for crystallisation of inorganic
material [18]. It has proven to be the most efcient and
easiestmethod for the production of ZnO nanoparticles. The
choice of solvent used for the reaction has been reported
to afect the shape of ZnO nanoparticles formed. Tonto
and coworkers showed that by using organic solvents of
diferent chain lengths, single crystalline ZnO nanoparticles
of diferent aspect ratio can be prepared [18].
Another recent work on solvothermal synthesis is that
reported by Linping Xu and coworkers. They reported that
by using solvents of diferent saturated vapour pressures
morphologies such as cauliflower, truncated, hexagonal,
conical, spheres, rods, tubular, hour glass ZnOs are attained
in solvents such as THF, decane, acetone, ethanol, water, and
toluene, respectively [19]. However, the shapes were attained
using conventional heating while microwave heating is also
gaining importance in synthetic chemistry due to its unique
efects such as rapid and selective heating, high reaction rate,
increased product yield, and energy saving, and it has been
used in the synthesis of ZnO nanoparticles [2022]. Previously
a mixture of hexadecylamine and oleic acid through
hot reduction of zinc halide by superhydride followed by
oxidation was reported to produce ZnO nanocrystals with
low-size dispersion [23]. Herein we report on the efect of
solvents polarity on the morphology and optical properties
of ZnO nanoparticles produced by microwave irradiation.
2. Experimental
2.1. Materials. Zinc nitrate hexahydrate (ZnNO36H2O)
99%, sodium hydroxide pellets (NaOH), hexadecylamine
(HDA), ethanol, and acetone were reagents from Sigma-
Aldrich and were all used without further purification.
2.2. Synthesis of Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles. Zinc oxide nanoparticles
of various morphologies were synthesized using
the method reported by Bahnemann et al. [12]. In a typical
synthesis, 2.5 g ofHDA, zinc nitrate hexahydrate (0.3M), and
sodium hydroxide (0.3M) prepared by dissolving in either
acetone, ethanol, or deionised water was placed into the
teflon reaction vessels of theMultiwave 300. Themixture was
reacted at 120C for 15 min in all solvent medium.
2.3. Characterisation
2.3.1. Optical Properties. Absorption spectra were acquired
on a Analytikjena Specord 50 UV-Vis spectrophotometer.
The particles were dissolved in methanol, and solution was
placed in a quarts cuvettes with 1 cm path length. A PerkinElmer LS 45 Fluorimeter was
used for the photoluminescence
of the nanoparticles dissolved in methanol.
2.3.2. Electron Microscopy. Transmission electron microscopy
was acquired on the Hitachi Jeol 100S operated at 80 keV.
A drop of nanoparticles dissolved in methanol was placed on
a copper grid.
2.3.3. Powder X-Ray Difraction. XRD patterns of the powdered
samples were obtained on a Phillips XPert materials
research difractometer using secondary monochromated
Cu K radiation ( = 1.54060 A ) at 40 Kv/50mA. Samples
were supported on a glass slide. Measurements were taken
using a glancing angle of incidence detector at an angle of 2
for 2 values over 1080 in steps of 0.05 with a scan speed of
2.3.4. Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy. The
FT-IR spectrum of the nanoparticles was recorded on a
Perkin Elmer Spectrum 100 FTIR spectrometer. The powder
sample was placed on a sample holder and the spectrum was
3. Results and Discussions
The synthesis of ZnO nanoparticles was made in various
methods to study the efects on conditions such as
precursors, temperature, time, and concentration on the
morphology and properties of nanoparticles. The solvents
have not been investigated to explore their efects in the
morphologies and optical properties. In the work various
solvents with varying degree of polarities were used. One of
the general morphologies obtained from aqueous media is
star-shaped nanoparticles, and diferent morphologies were
obtained in solvents acetone, water, and ethanol due to the
solvent interactions with the precursor, zinc nitrate salt in
the presence of hexadecylamine to stabilize the particles.
Microwave technique was used to ensure that the precursor
is soluble in all solvents and hexadecylamine also was
dispersed to allow both kinetic and thermodynamic control
in the growth of nanoparticles. The interaction between
solvents, hexadecylamine, and the precursor becomes critical
in influencing the growth of particles. The addition of a
base sodium hydroxide is generally known to generate an
intermediate hydroxide Zn(OH)4
2 upon reaction with the
zinc salt (1). The conversion of the hydroxides into ZnO (2)
is promoted by excess of sodium hydroxide in the presence
of solvent medium either water, ethanol, or acetone. Water
has the least solubility towards HDA whereas in acetone and
ethanol solubility is increased and allowing more interaction
between the particles and the capping molecule:
Zn2+ + 4OH Zn(OH)42 (1)
Zn(OH)42 ZnO (2)

3.1. Optical Properties. The optical properties of ZnO

nanoparticles in ethanol as a solvent are shown in
Figure 1(a). ZnO normally exhibits two emission peaks;
one is a broad green emission in the region between 500
and 530nm [10] which is due to the oxygen vacancy. The
other gave much narrow ultraviolet emission band at around
400nm which is due to the excitons recombination. A welldefined
excitonic peak appears at 368nm and is slightly
blue shifted when compared to the bulk which appears at
370 nm. One of the impressive features of semiconductor
nanoparticles is their ability to emit light upon excitation
with shorter wavelength of equivalent to the absorption
onset, an electron is promoted from valence band to the
conduction band, and on relaxation a photon is emitted.
The emission peak at 402nm is associated with the
excitons recombination corresponding to the band edge
emission of ZnO (Figure 1(a)). The wavelength maximum
emission is red shifted from the absorption peak and this is a
typical feature of well-passivated nanoparticles. The absorption
spectrum of ZnO nanoparticles prepared in acetone
is presented in Figure 1(b). The excitonic peak appears in
369 nm, blue shifted compared to the bulk. The blue shift
is due to the particles nanosize regime exhibiting quantum
confinement efect. The photoluminescence spectra show a
broad emission due to the wide distribution of the particle
size. The large particle size and shape of the particles
synthesised in water as a solvent influenced the appearance
of the absorption peak (Figure 1(c)). The absorption peak
for water is also much more tailing compared to the peak of
acetone and ethanol. 3.2. Structural Properties
3.2.1. TEM and IR Spectral Analysis. In the alkyl containing
solvents, ethanol, and acetone, a mixture of rods and spheres
was formed. It has been reported that organic solvents
promote the formation of spheres and rods [19]; therefore a
similar trend was observed with ethanol and acetone (Figures
2(a), 2(b, c)), respectively. Particles formed when ethanol
was used as a solvent in Figure 2(a) have spheres ranging
from 20 to 60nm and rods with aspect ratio of 860. Since
nanoparticles are so small, they are very unstable and tend to
agglomerate. Over the years the problem has been overcome
by using an organic molecule that is going to introduce
steric hindrance between the particles thereby preventing
agglomeration. Hexadecylamine (HDA) has proven to be a
good capping agent over the years. It is versatile and is mobile
enough to readily add to monomer but stable enough to
prevent agglomeration [6]. Even though HDA is such a good
capping agent, particles obtained in ethanol appear to have
agglomerated. It is well documented that ZnO contains the
fastest growing plan 0001. Therefore in the beginning of the
reaction, spheres are formed which contains the high energy
0001. Because of the high energy, the plane that elongates
faster than the other planes resulting into the formation of
rods [24].
Particles formed in acetone (Figures 2(b) and 2(c)) have
spheres with sizes ranging from 45 to 100nm and rods
with aspect ratio which ranges from 37 to 94, and particles
are bigger and longer than those formed in ethanol.
Acetone has the lowest boiling point compared to ethanol;
therefore particles formed in acetone are heated to a lower
temperature, and because of the low dielectric constant
compared to ethanol, it interacts the least with the electromagnetic
radiation of the microwave. Therefore particles
formed in acetone were expected to be much smaller. Long
rods also formed in acetone a phenomenon established when
nonalcoholic solvents are sued in solvothermal synthesis [25]
of ZnO nanoparticles. The influence in the formation of
long rods could be resulting from the one-dimensionality
of the interaction with the amine group of the HDA. HDA
is known to promote growth along one plane through the
bonding interaction between the NH2 group and the ZnO
nanoparticles. Therefore the solubility of HDA in acetone
at the given temperature (120C) allows the formation of
both spheres and rods under the microwave treatment.
Using water as solvent, star-shaped particles were formed
(Figure 2(d)). The star-shaped nanoparticles have also been
reported using conventional heating; their shape which is
due to the coalescence of several nuclei and water has the
tendency of forming star-shaped particles [24].
Under normal conditions, HDA will not dissolve in
water; however the microwave might induce the dissolution
of HDA in water therefore capping the particles efectively.
To confirm that HDA passivated the particles formed in
water, the IR was used. The FTIR in Figure 3 illuminates
the evolution of surface-bonded molecule on ZnO nanoparticles.
In HDA only, the peaks at 3181.873336 cm1 are
due to NH stretching of the primary amine. The CH and
CNH stretching appears at 2850 and 2916 cm1. In ZnO
capped with HDA, the NH vibration disappears and the
peak broadens; this can be possible due to the OH stretching
of some water on the surface of ZnO nanoparticles. The
CC (714.8 cm1) and CH2 wagging (1454.3 cm1) vibrations
are highly intense in HDA due to the high number
of CH2s in the molecular structure of HDA; however the
introduction of ZnO nanoparticles weakens the peaks. The
presence of similar peaks from both ZnOHDA and HDA
cannot conclusively denote the interaction of HDA with ZnO
nanoparticles but it does indicate the presence of HDA in the
3.2.2. XRD Analysis. To confirm the purity and determine
the phase of the particles, X-ray difractometry was used. The
XRD difraction peaks were indexed to hexagonal phase ZnO.
The morphologies from acetone and ethanol (Figure 4) have
similar difraction patterns except for the relative intensities
due to their random orientation. XRD pattern for water
was indexed to pure hexagonal phase ZnO without any
trace of Zinc Nitrate, while ethanol and acetone show some
impurities marked with an asterisk. The impurities are from
unreacted zinc nitrate; however the peaks are broad in both
solvents compared to water which has narrow and more
intense peaks. The broadness of the peaks is due to the small
size of the particles.
4. Conclusions
The synthesis of ZnO nanoparticles capped with hexadecylamine
(HDA) was carried out with Zn(NO3)2 and NaOH
as the base in acetone, ethanol, and water. Reaction in
ethanol results in the formation of rods and spheres which
are of smaller sizes with respect to those formed in acetone
as a solvent under similar conditions. Water as a solvent
forms highly crystalline ZnO nanoparticles which are star
shaped. The solvent influence was observed to the drive
for the interaction of HDA with ZnO nanoparticles growth
with both thermodynamic and kinetic controls considered
under the microwave irradiation. The polar characteristic
of the solvent was proposed to be the main factor that
afects both nucleation and growth of ZnO nanoparticles
and, consequently, determines the shape, size, and aspect
ratio of the products.
The work was performed in the laboratories of the CSIRNCNSM
in Pretoria, University of Johannesburg, Department
of Chemical Technology, and Vaal University of
Technology. The financial support was obtained from the
National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa. The
electron microscope images were measured from the electron
microscope unit at the University ofWitwatersrand.